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Bethel Park swim coach to retire after 36 years on deck

| Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2014, 9:00 p.m.
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Bethel Park swim coach Bill Kennedy with state medalist Allie Brinkoff.

Bill Kennedy finds he's becoming more sentimental as he wraps up a long career as Bethel Park girls swimming coach.

Kennedy, 58, plans to retire after 36 seasons, including 22 as head coach.

A replacement will be named after the season, Bethel Park athletic director Amy Scheuneman said.

Kennedy said he felt some emotion after his final home meet last week.

“It's hard not to,” he said.

Senior Allie Brinkhoff said the Black Hawks, who beat Fox Chapel, 99-87, were determined to win for their coach.

“We wanted to make the meet special,” said Brinkhoff, noting the next big goal is a strong finish at the WPIAL Class AAA championship meet.

Under Kennedy, Bethel Park has a record of about 270-45 in dual meets. The Black Hawks have been WPIAL champions seven times, including four straight years from 2005 to 2008, and state champions twice.

“I love coaching, but just got tired of doing it 11 months, three days a week for a good part of the year,” said Kennedy, who also coached boys and girls as head of the Bethel Park Recreation Swim Team.

In her first year as an assistant coach at the University of Kentucky, former Bethel Park standout Sarah Dunleavy admires Kennedy's dedication.

“I don't think people realize the commitment swimming takes,” said Dunleavy, 24, who swam for Purdue. “Coach Kennedy was committed for 30-plus years.

“To me, that's incredible. I hope to bring the same level of passion to the pool deck on a daily basis.”

Mt. Lebanon coach Tom Donati, 45, also considers Kennedy a role model after swimming at Bethel Park.

Kennedy said his most memorable experience came outside a pool, when he walked a former swimmer down the aisle at her wedding. Other highlights include accompanying swimmers to U.S. Olympic Team Trials and being elected to the Pennsylvania Swimming Hall of Fame.

Colleagues said Kennedy will be missed.

“I sat on different USA Swimming committees where he had input,” said Patrick Wenzel, 38, who replaced longtime North Allegheny coach Corky Semler this season.

Former Peters coach Tom Fletcher, 30, said he relied on Kennedy for interpreting rules.

Kennedy, a retired physical education teacher, looks forward to traveling more and spending time with his 14-month-old grandchild.

Karen Kadilak is a freelance writer.

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